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Lesson 15 from: Choosing the Right Camera Lens

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

15. Compatibility

Next Lesson: Lens Technology

Lesson Info


Now, whatever camera you own, you're gonna wanna know about the compatibility of lenses because it is something that has changed over time as technology has changed and so, throughout the rest of the class, these are the cameras and the lens mounts that we are going to be talking specifically about. My apologies to Pentax and Leica and Hasseblad, they make some wonderful cameras, but I was just trying to reach out to the largest group of photographers out there and these are the most popular cameras on the market today. If you have one of the cameras that I'm not talking about, everything else applies in general, it's just the specifics about those one individual lenses are gonna be a little bit different but you can still use this class even if you're using a brand that's not listed here. And so you wanna know a little bit about the history of your particular brand, so we're gonna take a quick tour through the different brands and some of the things that you wanna know about as far as...

compatibility and how things have changed over time. First up is Canon. Back in 1933 they got started as Kwanon and they made little rangefinder cameras. They then got into interchangeable lens cameras with a SLR style camera. They were using, not a standard bayonet mount, but a breech mount locking system. They thought a bayonet mount system was bad 'cause you would have two surfaces rubbing against each other and that might cause a difference and so they had a system that mounted, matched the body up to the lens, and then you rotated a special collar around it so that the mounting space between the body and the lens was never moving against each other and it was just a way of solving the problem. Then they've gone through several iterations of this breech mount lock system and they keeped on having their, went from the R mount to the L mount to the FD mount and anyone who's using the older Canon cameras will know all about this. Well, there was a big change. Let's see, then they had the new FD Mount. Forgot about that. 1987, then they changed everything. They threw everything out and they started fresh with a brand new lens mount, a standard bayonet mounting system in 1987, the EF lens mount so all of the current Canon digital cameras can go back to 1987. If you wanna use any of those older lenses, you're gonna need an adapter and there's gonna be a lot of limitations on manual focusing, manually setting your aperture and so forth and so they're very challenging to work with but you're good with any of the EF mounting lenses on any of the current Canon cameras. Nikon has a more interesting past because they have adapted a lot of different lenses to work over time. They started about a hundred years ago and they started with small rangefinder's as well. They got into SLR cameras with interchangeable lenses and the F-mount that they started in is, essentially, the same lens mount that they have on today's modern cameras. However, it has been going through an evolutionary change and you can't take a modern Nikon camera, Nikon lens, and mount it on that old Nikon F and you can't take that old Nikon F lens and mount it on your current Nikon. They tend to kind of change a little bit about every 10 to 15 years. One of their bigger changes was in when they introduced auto focus and so those auto focus lenses will work on some but not all of the modern cameras. 1999, 1988, just for note there, that's when they actually changed their name to the Nikon Corporation and then they got into digital cameras in 1999. But with Nikon, we need to take a close look because they've had a lot of physical changes and communication changes between the body and the lens and so if you don't own Nikon, this might be kind of interesting but not really applicable. If you own Nikon, this is really important stuff. 1986, they introduce auto focus and the way that their auto focus system work is that there is a motor in the body and it drill the drive shaft and there was a little key that stuck out of the camera and stuck into the little slot on the lens like a screw driver and it turned the lens and it made a little err-err-err and it went back and forth. 1992, they introduced a distance algorithm so the camera could figure out where the lens was focused to for additional exposure information. The lenses were still pretty much the same, there was just a little bit of extra information passed onto the cameras and so you'll see some AF-D. Big change. 1996, they bring out their silent wave motor. Now what they've done is, rather than using the motor in the camera body, they put a specifically built motor in the lens and that way it was closer to where it needed to work and they didn't need to work with a drive shaft on it and so these lenses have no drive shaft, all the information is transmitted electronically. Now, you gotta be a little bit concerned with these lenses because they're not gonna work on the original auto focus cameras like an 8008 or a 6006, so there's limited compatibility because those earlier bodies needed the drive shaft, that's the only way they knew how to focus. Then they introduce the AF-G and this isn't so much with dealing with focusing, it's dealing with the aperture ring. They took off the aperture ring that had been on Nikon lenses since and so these G lenses have the aperture controlled electronically by one of the dials in the camera and so if you have this, you gotta be concerned with some of those older manual cameras and so if you're getting into film photography and you're looking at older lenses, you gotta make sure that you're getting a lens that works on the body properly. In 2002, when they started getting into digital, they were using the smaller crop frame and they started introducing DX lenses which have a smaller image circle specifically designed for those cropped frame bodies and you can, but you probably don't want to use those on full frame cameras like the D850 or the 810 or the or any of those cameras out there. Nikon will allow you to put 'em on and shoot 'em, but you're not gonna get the full megapixels that that camera can offer. These are specifically designed for, what's currently known as the, let's see, it'd be the 3000, D3000, D5000, D7000 series of cameras. The D500 camera as well. 2011 they introduced a completely different system and we're not gonna be talking about this system other than on this one slide in this class. The CX mirrorless system was a camera system designed around a smaller sized sensor. They wanted to have a very small sized camera, so they went smaller than their full-frame, they went smaller than the DX, all the way down to what they call a CX sensor which is only 16 millimeters from corner to corner and these lenses and bodies are completely incompatible with all the other stuff from Nikon so that is an entity and camera all unto its own and that's the last we're gonna talk about it in this class. In 2014, they added an E, an electromagnetic aperture. Now, up until this time, Nikon has been controlling how open and closed the aperture is with this little, physical arm that sticks out in the body mount and one that sticks out in the lens and it would push this lever open and close, telling the lens how far to open and close it and they have now introduced an electromagnetic aperture which should be able to work faster and longer and be better, more precise in the long run and be independent of the body but these newer E lenses do not work with some basic, fairly modern cameras like a D80 or a D40 and so if you do have a Nikon digital camera and you're getting one of these new E lenses, make sure that your digital camera is of a new enough vintage that you can actually do this. Now, probably the most important capability or compatibility issue that you need to know about with Nikon is the drive shaft that I talked about earlier in the lenses and in the bodies. So, in the D7500 body, for instance, and above, so all the full-frame cameras, there is usually a drive shaft that is sticking out of that little lens mount that can plug into the lenses. On the lower-end cameras like the D3000 and 5000 series, it does not have that and you will not be able to auto focus a lot of those lenses that have that older drive shaft system on it so you wanna be very careful that you are getting the appropriate lenses. So if you have a D3000 or 5000 or D500 series, you wanna get an AF-S lens. So these E lenses are the newest lenses from Nikon and they have the electromagnetic aperture, so you're gonna get really good aperture control. You're not really gonna notice a lot of difference in day-to-day photography but it will be better performance over the long run and these can be used with all the modern cameras, but they can't with the older film cameras and they cannot be used, even, with the original digital cameras that came out like the D1, D1x, D2's, D40's, D80s, and so forth and so. And so you do have to be careful on this latest generation of E lenses and so if you're a Nikon shooter, you really gotta stay up on your compatibility issues 'cause there's a lot of different things about how the aperture, focusing, and lens communication work and hopefully this will give you a little preview to it. Now, Sony has its own unique history because they actually bought the old technology that came from Minolta and they've taken it into a whole new generation. Now, Minolta used to make film cameras and digital cameras and they made full-frame, which was part of an A mount system, but then they introduced a cropped frame that still had an A mount but used a DT lens which was a smaller image circle for their smaller crop frame sensors. And Sony really wanted to do something completely different so they started a completely different mirror-less camera and the Sony A6500 is a current example of this and this uses a completely different lens system. Now, they did make an adaptor, so you could use the older lenses on this new camera, but I'm not really going to get into the adapters in this class 'cause there's a lot of implications when that happens. And so this was a crop framing using an E mount. They now have a collection of full-frame cameras that are still E mount, but they use full-frame lenses which is what Sony is calling FE lenses and so they have one mount but they have two different size sensors in them with different collection of cameras and so you can use the E lenses on both cameras and you can use the FE lenses on both cameras. If you have a full frame Sony, you're gonna wanna stick to the FE lenses. Fujifilm. Been around for quite some time and they have a very interesting past because they have made probably a wider collection of cameras than anybody else in the industry. They've obviously made film for quite some time. Back in the '60s, they were making medium format cameras. As they did, into the '80s and '90s they made 35 millimeter interchangeable lens cameras. I used to be the specialist at a camera store in the medium format cameras and I worked a lot with the Fuji's because they had some really interesting cameras. Some fairly small ones, some pretty big ones, and they, I mean, they're really known to have very good lenses and so some interesting different products that they have made. In the 2000's they were a little bit lost, I think, because what was going on there, there was a transition to digital. They knew color really well and so what they did is they bought cameras from Nikon, adapted their Fuji sensors and made some other body changes and then they used Nikon lenses. So you could have a Nikon lens on a Fuji camera and that worked out for a while but then Nikon kinda got their own game going in digital quite well and they abandoned that system completely. In 2010, they introduced a camera that took the industry by storm, the X100, and people said "please make an interchangeable "lens version of this camera," which they did a short time later, making the X-Pro 1 and since then, they've been making a whole bunch of these mirrorless cameras that have a nice little crop frame to 'em. Recently they just introduced a medium format camera again so they're getting back into the medium format gig as well so they have a line of these X cameras we'll talk lots more about as well as the medium format which we are not gonna talk about 'cause that kinda goes off into a different stratosphere. Olympus has been around for quite some time. It's a very, very trusted name in photography and, as we go through their history, one of the things that I really take note of is they love small cameras. They've always tried to put the highest quality package into the smallest camera with a heavy emphasis on the small sizes so they were always one of the best camera companies to have for travel photography or anyone who really wanted a compact camera. They had the first digital camera that I ever saw. A 640 by 480, .3 megapixel camera and that was pretty cool at the time. They introduced a four thirds system for the digital world and this is an SLR that used a much smaller sized sensor. Didn't do too well so they redesigned it, used the same size sensor, but made the whole camera much, much smaller into what is called the micro four thirds system and this is a system that has become quite popular because it is so much smaller in size than everything else but has a lot of the other professional and advanced features of a full-frame camera. So a full-frame camera measures 24 by 36 millimeters. A four thirds, which has to do with this aspect ratio, is 13 millimeters by 17 millimeters and so that 4:3 is the aspect ratio of that sensor which is a little bit different than a full frame or a standard crop frame sensor but it is also referring to the lens mount system and so if you own Olympus or Panasonic, which uses compatible lenses, you wanna be very aware of the difference between four thirds and micro four thirds 'cause there's a big difference. Olympus originally made a lot of cameras that were SLR style but they were part of the four thirds system and so the flange distance was different on these and so you have to be very careful because, for instance, they have a 14 to 42 millimeter lens and they have another 14 to 42 millimeter lens that's designed for micro four thirds cameras and so here is what a cross section of those four thirds single lens reflex cameras work like. This is your standard single lens reflex. Has the mirror in it, bounces the light up through the prism system, has a standard shutter unit, standard interchangeable lenses, but it's got a relatively large flange distance which made the cameras kind of big. In order to make it smaller, they took out the mirror, they took out the prism system, they reduced the flange distance, they put in an electronic viewfinder and they were able to reduce the camera and the lens size by quite a bit and this is what we have today and this is what is known as the micro four thirds system. A lot of people forget the word micro in there but that's what's being used on all the common systems now. For instance, Olympus recently discontinued their four thirds lenses. They haven't made a four thirds camera in many, many years and so now it's all the micro four thirds system and so there was a difference between four thirds and micro four thirds. Now, they do have the same size sensor, they have the same lens mount as far as the construction and shape and how the lens attaches to it, but it is a different flange distance which means we have a different set of lenses because they need to project the light into a slightly different way. Now, because Olympus had made all these four third lenses, and now they had this new, smaller camera, they did make this adaptor and so this adapter is still available now, the MMF-3, and you can use all of the older lenses on the newer camera. There are some limitations when you do that, but you can do it. Panasonic, another electronic company that doesn't have a lot of photographic history, has been around for quite a while and has been an expertise in electronics. They had a lot of cameras back in the VHS days, I remember them, one of the more popular brands. And so they, along with Olympus, co-introduced this four thirds system and they had some very interesting four thirds cameras. But like Olympus, they didn't have the sales that they were hoping for, so they went to a mirrorless system and now have a micro four thirds system and they have their system which is totally compatible with the Olympus system and they have gone in and they have really specialized in addressing the needs of people interested in video and so you'll find that the Panasonic cameras are very good at taking still photos, but they're extremely good at shooting video as well. So anyone who wants to shoot video and stills is often looking at the Panasonic options.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Choosing The Right Camera Lens Handout (15 pages)

Ratings and Reviews

E.L. Bl/Du

John is one of the best instructors Ive watched. he's clear, concise, and gets right to the point. His display's and diagrams are so great, he makes very complicated subjects easy to understand, and fun. He holds your attention and interest b/c everything he says is valuable. This really helped me understand the vast complicated world of lenses. I would highly recommend this class to anyone who doesnt know what hyperfocal distance is.

Boris Dimitrov

Excellent class packed with incredibly useful knowledge. John is an amazing lecturer. He has also developed really great materials to help explain all the concepts and technologies that are explored in the class. Looking forward to my next class with him!

a Creativelive Student

Great class. So informative. John Greengo is such a fantastic tutor and explains everything in such and easy-to-understand way. I would highly recommend this class. Prior to doing this class, I was so confused about which lenses are best for various photography. Now I understand lenses completely. Thanks John!

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